ANTONSON, Rick (1949- )

Author Tags: Essentials 2010, First Nations, Literary Landmarks, Local History, Publishing

LITERARY LOCATION: Mohamed Tahar Library, lower south east quadrant of old Timbuktu proper, Mali

Part of the royalties from Rick Antonson's travel memoir To Timbuktu for a Haircut have been provided to biblioteques such as the Mohamed Tahar Library for use in construction and in preservation of endangered ancient manuscripts from the 14th Century.

Rick Antonson's To Timbuktu for a Haircut (Dundurn 2008) is an amusing and enlightening memoir about his intrepid journey to Mali, via Senegal, to visit the fabled city, and his resulting determination to help preserve Timbuktu's approximately 700,000 endangered ancient manuscripts.

“I left Africa personally changed by the gentle harshness I found and a disquieting splendour that found me," he writes. "Mali was the journey I needed, if not the one I envisioned. And I learned that there’s a little of Timbuktu in every traveller: the over-anticipated experience, the clash of dreams with reality.”

The title is derived from a favoured expression of his father whenever his two young sons pestered him as to where he was going. Antonson's father would reply, "I'm going to Timbuktu to get my haircut." Some fifty years later, Antonson's long-imagined journey was undertaken in the wake of his participation in the successful bid to procure the 2010 Winter Olympics for Vancouver/Whistler.

"We were stuck. Everyone in the Land Cruiser jumped to the ground to lighten the load. Two weeks earlier I had used my hands to scuff snow from under the wheels of a friend's Jeep that had got stuck in Canadian mountains. Now, I carved armfuls of sand from behind the Land Cruiser's wheels to achieve the same effect. We pushed and the vehicle lurched forward. We continued toward Essakane. Our vehicle's shocks abdicated. It was an atrocious experience, and I loved it. These hours, as we bore north, were among my most memorable experiences of the land -- vast, faraway, uncertain. It was what I'd long envisioned Timbuktu to be."

One of the most enduring tales of murder and gold in B.C. was the basis for Rick Antonson's first book, In Search of a Legend: The Search for the Slumach-Lost Creek Gold Mine (Nunaga, 1972), co-written with Mary Trainer and his brother, Brian Antonson. The threesome started their own publishing company to release the book. The original title reputedly sold more than 10,000 copies in various editions, making it a B.C. classic.

In 2007, they repackaged this story in a significantly expanded edition as Slumach’s Gold: In Search of a Legend (Heritage House $14.95). It’s a compilation of both fact and local hearsay about an elderly Indian named Slumach and the legend of his lost gold mine in the Fraser Valley, near Pitt Lake, about 35 miles from Vancouver.

Often said in legend to have been seen in New Westminster with huge gold nuggets, over the decades Slumach gained a reputation as an evil and violent womanizer. In actual fact, Slumach shot and killed a Métis man, Louis Boulier, also known as Louis Bee, at Lillooet Slough near the Pitt River, in 1890, and disappeared into the bush before being captured. He was eventually convicted for murder in 1891. Newspapers brazenly described Slumach as a murderer long before he was caught and brought to trial. If the First Nation suspect (probably Salish) had a lawyer, a plea of self-defence might have been sufficient to save his life.

The Antonsons and Trainer note that stories of Slumach spreading his gold nuggets in local “sporting houses” and taking women into the bush with him—never to be seen again—only emerged after his death. In hindsight, it’s possible Slumach’s unsavoury reputation for consorting with non-Aboriginal and Métis women could be rationalized by white society if he was believed to have had access to wealth.

Prior to being hanged in New Westminster, Slumach supposedly placed a curse on his hidden motherlode, also known as the Lost Creek Mine, and the reputed fortune remained lost for more than a century. In the early 1900s an American miner named Jackson reportedly found Slumach’s Mine, but he died soon afterwards, leaving behind an intriguing letter that provided hints as to the site of the mine in a remote part of what is now Garibaldi Provincial Park—and becoming the first victim of the mine’s curse.

Many others ventured into the difficult and dangerous terrain to seek the mine over the years also met with misfortune. The Vancouver Province once estimated the number of deaths to be around 30 people. Rick Antonson was later contacted by a former newspaper publisher who confided that gold seekers had found what he believed to be the legendary mine. That helped spark a 35th anniversary edition--triple the size of the original version--which introduces new material (three television documentaries have been made) as well as expanded research and more photos.

There are more than 2,000 references for Slumach on the internet. Fred Braches of Whonnock maintains an excellent reference site for skeptics at with encouragement from Rick and Brian Antonson, Mike Collier, Ann Lunghamer, Rob Nicholson, David Mattison, Joanne Peterson, Don Waite and the staff of the New Westminster Public Library, Vancouver Public Library, and BC Archives. There are only imaginary images of Slumach and verification that he ever had access to gold nuggets from a hidden mine does not exist, but Slumach’s reputation is nonetheless global.

[One of the earliest books about gold in B.C. was Handbook to the New Gold Fields: A Full Account of the Richness and Extent of the Fraser River and Thompson River Gold Mines (1858) by Robert Michael Ballantyne, a Scot who was dubbed “Ballantyne the Brave” by Robert Louis Stevenson. For other authors pertaining to gold, see abcbookworld entries for Anderson, Doris; Baird, Andrew; Banon, Edward Magowly; Barlee, N.L.; Basque, Garnet; Beeson, Edith; Boissery, Beverley; Brown, Robert; Caldwell, Francis E.; Claudet, F.G.; Dickinson, Christine Frances; Domer, John; Douglas, David; Dower, John; Elliott, Marie Anne; Fetherling, George; Ficken, Robert E.; Fitzgeorge-Parker, Ann; Forsythe, Mark; Futcher, Winnifred; Gates, Michael; Green, Lewis; Hall, Ralph; Harris, Lorraine; Hauka, Donald J.; Hawkins, Elizabeth; Hayman, John; Hazlitt, William Carew; Ingersoll, Ernest; Johnson, F. Henry; Johnson, Peter; Krumm, Stan; Langston, Laura; Laut, Agnes; Lazeo, Laurence; Lindley, Jo; Ludditt, Fred; McNaughton, Margaret; Miller, Naomi; Minter, Roy; Morrell, W.P.; Murphy, Claire Rudolph; Patenaude, Branwen; Paterson, T.W.; Phillipps-Wolley, Clive; Porsild, Charlene; Ramsey, Bruce; Reinhart, Herman Francis; Service, Robert; Sheepshanks, John; Sinclair, James; Smedley-L’Heureux, Audrey; Smith, Robin Percival; Sterne, Netta; Swindle, Lewis J.; Trueman, Allan Stanley; Verne, Jules; Villiers, Edward; Waddington, Alfred; Wade, Mark Sweeten; Wright, Richard; Wright, Rochelle.]

Murdoch’s Bookshoppe in Mission neatly encapsulated the scope or Rick Antonson’s American travel memoir about traveling in a Mustang with his son to find the remains of the highway that once linked the central U.S. to California, Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving America’s Main Street (Dundurn 2012):

"From Woody Guthrie to Will Rogers, from the TV show of the same name to John Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath, the connections with this highway are wide-ranging and intriguing."

Antonson spent several years developing his Route 66 book into the basis for a musical theatre piece, workshopped with the Arts Club. Part of the royalties from Route 66 Still Kicks were donated to the National Route 66 Historic Federation to further their work in restoration and land marking sections of the old road.


Born in Vancouver in 1949, Rick Antonson attended Simon Fraser University and started Antonson Publishing and Nunaga Publishing in the early 1970s.

Titles released by Antonson include Dr. Guy Richmond's Prison Doctor (1997), Brian Antonson and Gordon Stewart's Canadian Frontier (1977), Richard Thomas Wright's collection of outdoors articles, Westering (1978), and Peter Moogk's Vancouver Defended: A History of the Men and Guns of the Lower Mainland Defences, 1859-1949 (1978).

For five years Antonson worked as Vice-President and general manager of Douglas & McIntyre in the mid-1980s, during which time he served as president of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia. In 1985 Antonson also became chairman of the Leader's Committee to oversee the provincial election campaign for the B.C. Liberal Party. He left publishing to become Vice President of the Great Canadian Railtour Company Ltd., operating a train service between Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies. This led to his job as President & CEO of Tourism Vancouver, the Greater Vancouver Convention & Visitors Bureau, which represents more than 1,000 member businesses.

As an adjunct activity, Antonson has served as Chairman of the Oceans Blue Foundation to encourage a more environmentally responsible approach to tourism in the Pacific Northwest. Antonson has also been managing director of Southwestern B.C. Tourist Association, founding Executive Director of the Tourism Industry Association and a member of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Tourism Commission and Douglas & McIntyre. He was a member of the Board of Directors for Vancouver/Whistler 2010 Olympic Winter Games Bid Corporation and he has served as co-chairman for B.C. Special Olympics for the mentally challenged. With Bob Herger, Antonson also co-authored The Fraser Valley (Whitecap, 1981).

Rick Antonson resigned from his Tourism Vancouver post in 2014 to concentrate more on his writing.

Whistle Posts West (2015) by Mary Trainer, Brian Antonson and Rick Antonson is a collection of train stories from B.C., Alberta and the Yukon spanning 150 years. Topics covered include classic episodes like the nailing of the “last spike” at Craigellachie, BC, in 1885 and the devastating train collision at Hinton, AB, in 1986, along with tales of train robberies, bridge disasters, humour and high jinx on the rails, and Robert Service's 1904 journey to the Klondike aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. The book includes a foreword by Don Evans, president emeritus of the West Coast Railway Association, a list of heritage train sites in Western Canada, Yukon, and Alaska, and fabulous archival photos throughout.

For his next book, Full Moon Over Noah's Ark (Skyhorse 2016), Rick Antonson joined an expedition to the 5,137-metre (16,854-foot) summit of Mount Ararat, looking down on the countries of Turkey, Armenia and Iran, a journey on the massif often said to be the resting place of Noah's Ark after the Great Flood. Trekking alongside a contingent of Armenians, for whom Mount Ararat is the stolen symbol of their country. Antonson weaves vivid historical anecdotes with unexpected travel vignettes.


The Fraser Valley (Whitecap, 1981). Photographs by Bob Herger.

In Search of a Legend: Slumach’s Gold: The Search for the Slumach-Lost Creek Gold Mine (ISOAL, 1972). 35th Anniversary Edition, revised and expanded, published as Slumach’s Gold: In Search of a Legend (Heritage House, 2007). Rick Antonson, Mary Trainer and Brian Antonson. ISBN 978-1-894974-35-6

To Timbuktu for a Haircut; A Journey Through West Africa (Dundurn, 2008; Second Edition, Skyhorse, 2013). Dundurn ISBN 978-1-4597-1049-8 Skyhorse ISBN 978-1-62087-567-4

Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving America’s Main Street (Dundurn 2012; Skyhorse, 2012) 40 illustrations; 5 maps. Dundurn ISBN 978-1-4597-0436-7 Skyhorse ISBN 978-1-62087-300-7

Whistle Posts West: Railway Tales from British Columbia, Alberta, and Yukon (Heritage House 2015) $18.95 Mary Trainer, Brian Antonson, and Rick Antonson ISBN 978-1-77203-043-3

Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark: An Odyssey to Mount Ararat and Beyond (Skyhorse, 2016) $24.99 ISBN 978-1-51070-0565-4

[BCBW 2016] "Nunaga"

Slumach Bibliography

On his useful reference site at, Fred Braches of Whonnock has provided the following index of background information and sources other than Antonson's books. [Please visit his site for more in-depth info]

ANTONSON, BRIAN. "Slumach's Glorious Gold," in Canadian Frontier Annual. Surrey: Nunaga Publishing, 1976.

BARLEE, N.L. (BILL) "The Lost Mine of Pitt Lake, in Lost Mines and Historic Treasures of British Columbia. Surrey: Hancock House, 1993.

DOWNS, ART, ED. Slumach's Gold: In Search of a Legend. Surrey: Frontier Books, 1981.

HAWKINS, ELIZABETH M. Jack Mould and the Curse of Gold, Vancouver, BC: Hancock House Publishers Ltd.,1993

MACDOUGAL, SANDY "Slumach" in Pitt Polder, Legends and Dreams,Maple Ridge, BC: by the author

MILLER, CHARLES A. "Volcanic Brown's Last Trip," in The Golden Mountains, Chronicles of valley and coast mines, Mission BC, by the author. This hard-to-get book is for sale by Daryl Friesen for Cdn $20. Click here.

PATERSON, T.W. "Legend of the Lost Creek Mine," Canadian Treasure Trails. Langley: Stagecoach Publishing Co. Ltd., 1976.

PATERSON, T.W. "Legend of the Lost Creek Mine," in Basque, Garnet, Lost Bonanzas of Western Canada. Surrey BC: Heritage House, 2006. T.W. Paterson is shown as the author of this story in the first edition published in 1983 by Sunfire Publications Ltd., Langley. , 1983.

RAMSEY, EDGAR Slumach: The Lost Mine. Sonora: Ramsey Books, 2006.

WAITE, DON "The Lost Mine of Pitt Lake," in Kwant'stan (The Golden Ears). Maple Ridge, BC: by the author, 1972.

WAITE, DONALD E. "The Lost Mine of Pitt Lake," in The Fraser Valley Story. Hancock House Publishers Ltd., 1988

To Timbuktu for a Haircut (Dundurn $26.95)

Rick Antonson’s To Timbuktu for a Haircut (Dundurn $26.95) is an amusing memoir about his intrepid journey to Mali, via Senegal, to visit the fabled city, and his resulting determination to help preserve Timbuktu’s approximately 700,000 endangered ancient manuscripts. The title is derived from a favoured expression of his father whenever his two young sons pestered him as to where he was going. Antonson’s father would reply, “I’m going to Timbuktu to get my haircut.”

Some fifty years later, Antonson’s long-imagined journey was undertaken in the wake of his participation in the successful bid to procure the 2010 Winter Olympics for Vancouver/Whistler. “We were stuck. Everyone in the Land Cruiser jumped to the ground to lighten the load. Two weeks earlier I had used my hands to scuff snow from under the wheels of a friend’s Jeep that had got stuck in Canadian mountains. Now, I carved armfuls of sand from behind the Land Cruiser’s wheels to achieve the same effect. We pushed and the vehicle lurched forward. We continued toward Essakane. Our vehicle’s shocks abdicated. It was an atrocious experience, and I loved it. These hours, as we bore north, were among my most memorable experiences of the land—vast, faraway, uncertain. It was what I’d long envisioned Timbuktu to be.” 978-1-55002-805-8

[BCBW 2008]

Route 66 Still Kicks
Press Release (2012)

from Dundurn Press

Route 66 Still Kicks is an exhilarating, heartbreaking drive down a forgotten road through unknown America. Author Rick Antonson and his travel nemesis, the inscrutable Peter, journey 2,400 miles (3,900 kilometres), over twelve days in a red Mustang convertible from Chicago to Los Angeles through eight states, seeking — and finding — all the old parts that remain of Route 66.

The author argues that this iconic route has an uncommon presence on the world stage that keeps it relevant — it is the highway of highways. North America’s Alaska Highway, the Baja Highway, and even the Trans-Canada highway are “Icon-light.” Route 66’s peers are on other continents — the Asian Highway from Singapore to Bangkok, the Road of Emperors from Prague to Budapest, or the Golden Road from Baghdad to Sam-Kar-And.

This travelogue blends surprising vignettes with obscure stories about Route 66–related personalities, among them Al Capone, the Harvey Girls, Salvador Dalí, Mickey Mantle, 1930s photojournalist Dorothea Lange, Cyrus Avery (the Father of Route 66), and songster Bobby Troup “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.” Even Cornelius Van Horne, president of the Canadian National Railway in 1888, makes an appearance!

Antonson’s fresh perspective on the route’s harsh history, its ebb and flow of popularity and viability along with America’s economic and social upheavals underpaints a canvas of stories about the road’s rise to fame, its segmenting by superhighways, and its fall from grace with the gazetteers — and Route 66’s entrenchment in legend.

In five trips over the past dozen years, Rick and his sons have circumnavigated the northern hemisphere by train, beginning and ending in London, England, including Beijing, China, by train to Pyong-yang, North Korea (a country visited by fewer than 300 Westerners each year). Recently Rick joined an expedition team to the 5,167-metre summit of Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey, followed by travels in Iraq and to Iran. Rick and his wife Janice make their homes in Vancouver, Canada, and in Edinburgh, Scotland. Rick Antonson is the president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver and a former ambassador for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Antonson leaves Tourism Vancouver
Press Release (2013)

Tourism Vancouver board chair Bob Lindsay announced yesterday (August 20) that the organization's president and CEO Rick Antonson will leave to become a full-time book author in June 2014.

Lindsay said in his announcement, "We began planning this over two years ago at Rick’s request, so the transition is strategic. Tourism Vancouver and our industry are heading into some of the most exciting and successful years, so the timing for this transition is very good."

Antonson said, "I’ve always seen myself in this role similarly to the third runner in a four lap relay. If you want to be on the winning team, it’s all about the next runner - and that means the handoff has to be perfect. Management and the Board have had lots of time to plan this transition, so it will go smoothly and set up the organization and our tourism industry for continued successes with the new CEO."

Lindsay noted that under Antonson’s leadership, Tourism Vancouver has played a significant role in shaping Vancouver and B.C.’s future. Tourism Vancouver launched the bid for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games where Antonson served as a Games Ambassador. Tourism Vancouver also initiated the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Taskforce, which led to the new centre that is partially funded by Tourism Vancouver’s $90-million investment. A wide range of programs began during Antonson’s watch, including the organization’s partnership with the City of Vancouver on Keep Vancouver Spectacular (an annual clean-up initiative now in its 19th year) Canada’s largest restaurant promotion, Dine Out Vancouver Festival (now in its 12th year) and Tickets Tonight, which sells over $3.5 million in performing arts and event tickets each year.

Capilano University awarded Antonson an Honorary Doctorate of Laws in 2011, and he has been inducted into the Canadian Tourism Hall of Fame. Last year, he was presented with the IMEX Academy Award in Europe. Antonson is also a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He is regularly invited to speak all over the world.

Antonson is author of the widely acclaimed book To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey Through West Africa. He also authored Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving America’s Main Street, which the New York Times called "one of the best books of the bunch" in their year-end travel book roundup (2012). He is co-author of the BC bestseller Slumach’s Gold: In Search of a Legend. His forthcoming book is Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark: An Odyssey to Mount Ararat. Antonson said, "I’ve long wished for a few years to concentrate on book topics I’m interested in researching, and I’ll now pursue a writing career full-time."

Nunaga Publishing
Article (2016)


In 1972 British Columbia there were only a few book publishing companies, and the thriving writer and publishing community we know today was just beginning. History was a cornerstone topic for many of the existing and new publishing companies of that time. So it was that co-authors Mary Trainer, Brian Antonson and Rick Antonson published their book In Search of a Legend; Slumach’s Gold under the imprint In Search of a Legend (ISOAL). They soon formalized their co-founded company, based in New Westminster, B.C., naming it Nunaga Publishing (after an Inuit word meaning “My land, My country”). In 1973 they published their first “other author” book, Alan Woodland’s New Westminster, The Early Years 1858 to 1898.

A COMPLETE LIST AND TIMELINES FOR NUNAGA-RELATED TITLES (ISBNs were not assigned to the earliest titles):


In Search of a Legend, Slumach’s Gold, Rick Antonson, Mary Trainer, Brian Antonson


New Westminster: The Early Years 1858 -1898, Alan Woodland

Antonson, Trainer and Antonson researched, produced and distributed an historical map of the Tulameen-Princeton region of British Columbia.


East Kootenay Saga, David Scott and Edna H. Hanic
The Danube Caper of Cornelius Burke, Cornelius Burke
All of it was Fun, Sue Sturrock
Hiking the High Points; A Guide to Hikes in the Interior of British Columbia, Roland Neave
British Columbia Canoe Routes, Canoe Sport British Columbia
ISBN 0-919900-02-X

In 1974 the three partners bought Canadian Frontier magazine (ISSN 0315-0062), publishing the Fall Issue of that year.


Prison Doctor, Dr. Guy Richmond
ISBN 0-919900-08-9
A Seagull’s Cry, Maud Emery
ISBN 0-919900-10-X
Highrise Horticulture, David Tarrant
ISBN 0-919900-09-7

Published two 1975 issues of Canadian Frontier magazine
ISSN 0315-0062. After publishing a total of three issues as a magazine, they converted the format into an annual book, beginning 1976.

Nunaga also distributed titles for other publishers. One such “distributed book” which was very helpful to the company’s exposure and wellbeing was the British Columbia Recreational Atlas from the B.C. government’s Department of Recreation and Conservation. It sold over 25,000 copies.


During 1976, after publishing many books together, Mary decided to concentrate on other aspects of her life and Rick purchased her 1/3rd partnership in the company.

Spatsizi, T. A. (Tommy) Walker
ISBN 0-919900-13-5
Jean Pauline, An Indian Tragedy, Maud Emery
ISBN 0-919900-16-X
British Columbia Cross-country Ski Routes, Richard Wright & Rochelle Wright
ISBN 0-919900-15-1
Canadian Frontier Annual, Edited by Brian Antonson
ISBN 0-919900-14-3


In 1977 the company was renamed Antonson Publishing.

Eating Wild Plants, Kim Williams
ISBN 8-87842-065-7
Canoe Routes Yukon Territory, Richard Wright & Rochelle Wright
ISBN 0-919900-22-4
Canoe Routes British Columbia, Richard Wright & Rochelle Wright
ISBN 0919900-20-8
Canadian Frontier Annual, Edited by Brian Antonson and Gordon Stewart
ISBN 0-919900-24-0


Westering, Richard Thomas Wright
ISBN 0-919900-31-3
Shadows of a Violent Mind, Dr. Guy Richmond
ISBN 0-919900-29-1
Vancouver Defended, Peter N. Moogk
ISBN 0-919900-26-7
Rocks, Ice & Water, David D. Alt and Donald W. Hyndman
ISBN 0-87842-041-X
Canadian Frontier Annual, Edited by Gordon Stewart and Brian Antonson, (introduction by George Woodcock)
ISBN 0-919900-30-5


Great Stories from the Canadian Frontier, Edited by Gordon Stewart and Brian Antonson
ISBN 0-919900-35-6

In 1979 the company’s list was sold to Douglas & McIntyre in Vancouver, B.C. At the time, the three co-founders had chosen to pursue their individual careers, Mary in communications, Brian in broadcasting and broadcast education, and Rick in tourism and publishing.